Las Vegas Sun

March 23, 2019

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Renewable energy bill raises concerns of higher rates for consumers

Electric companies would be required to supply more solar, wind and geothermal power to their customers under a bill introduced in the Senate.

“We are not going to consider anything to drive up the cost to the consumer,” says Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Labor and Energy, which sponsored Senate Bill 252 on Friday.

The measure comes on the heels of a complaint by state Public Utilities Commissioner David Noble that the Legislature only passes laws that jack up rates of consumers.

These include requirements that NV Energy must buy a certain amount of renewable energy in supplying its customers. Renewable energy is still more expensive to produce than is energy through coal or natural gas.

“Everybody is maxed out” in paying these electric bills, said Noble, who added the Legislature never considers anything to lower electric bills.

The state Bureau of Consumer Protection said Friday the bill would result in higher rates for consumers.

The current law mandates that the power company must obtain 25 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025. The bill introduced Friday raises that to 35 percent.

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, in his address to the Legislature, recommended the amount of renewable energy be boosted to 35 percent. Atkinson said he had his bill requested before Reid’s suggestion but added he met with the senator and his staff later on the plan.

Dan Jacobsen, technical staff manager for the consumer protection bureau, said he “hopes the Legislature will focus on the rate impact” of the legislation.

At the request of Noble, the staff of the PUC is compiling a list of the programs approved by the Legislature that have resulted in higher rates to the consumer.

Atkinson said his bill was a starting point and he will try to get opinions from a variety of sources including NV Energy, which serves about 1.5 million Nevada customers.

“Everybody recognizes the portfolio standards are outdated and we need to close some of the loopholes,” he said.

Under the current law, the power companies, if they have acquired excess renewable resources, can transfer them to a later year to meet the standards. Atkinson’s bill would limit that excess power savings to 10 percent.

“We are trying to come up with something that is comprehensive and doesn’t burden the consumer,” he said.

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